Training consultant gets jail for duping WDA

A 47-year-old woman, one of the masterminds of a ruse that duped the Singapore Workforce Development Agency (WDA) to disburse almost $73,000, was sentenced to two years and five months' jail yesterday.

The scam included submitting false claims for training courses that did not exist.

Serene Loh Peh Wen, who was an independent training consultant when she committed the crimes between 2014 and 2015, earned a commission of nearly $22,000 from the monies disbursed.

Loh, a Singaporean, pleaded guilty last Friday to five counts of cheating WDA of more than $35,000. Eight other similar charges on the remaining amount were considered during sentencing.

Loh had four alleged accomplices whose cases are pending: Sebastian Chen Yuren, 34; Siew Hoong Hua, 45; Marsh Terranova Tiruchellam, 53; and Patrick Ho Kok Wing, 56.

The court heard that WDA had disbursed the monies to two companies: Yoke Mah Plasterceil, which deals with plaster and cement, and Image Institute of Learning and Development, which provides corporate training services.

Image Institute hired Loh from May 2015 to January 2016. Yoke Mah Plasterceil was one of her clients. A third company, business consultancy firm Loyal Reliance, engaged Loh between late 2013 and April 2015.

Loyal Reliance paid Loh a 30 per cent commission for each course she arranged for Yoke Mah, while Image Institute gave her a 70 per cent commission for each course she arranged for Yoke Mah.

Loyal Reliance and Image Institute were training providers approved by WDA under an initiative called the Funding for Employer-based Training scheme, which encourages companies to upgrade their workers' skills by defraying the training costs. Companies can apply for training grants to fund their employees' participation in courses run by approved training providers.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Eugene Phua said between March 2014 and May 2015, Loh, Chen and Siew conspired to deceive WDA by submitting false information.

Siew was then a manager at Yoke Mah, in charge of day-to-day operations, while Chen was a training consultant who reported to Loh.

The bogus claims were submitted via SkillsConnect, an online portal hosted on WDA's server.

The DPP said the trio also used a similar method in their one claim involving Image Institute.

It was not stated how the offences came to light but on Oct 30, 2015, a senior manager at WDA alerted the Commercial Affairs Department about the falsified information.

Shaffiq Alkhatib

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 10, 2020, with the headline 'Training consultant gets jail for duping WDA'. Print Edition | Subscribe